Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

My photo
Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Breadline for Rich People

Andrea and I enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with my cousin and her husband in Napa, CA, where I found this scene.  --EFP

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Salmon Blues

(Click on the photo for an enlarged view.)
This one is from the 2007 spawning season.  I couldn't resist harking back to better days.  This year has been frustrating.  We've had too much rain.  The streams are all swollen and running high.  The salmon, therefore, are not jumping.  In some places, they can't move at all; the force of the water is too strong.  In other places, they're just zooming along below the surface, as if on a super highway.  That's great for the salmon, but not so good for my photography.  I'll keep trying.  --EFP

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prisoners of War or Terrorists?

(A legitimate "POW," Vietnam, December 4, 1967)
I’ve been having a tough time deciding how I really feel about Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try September 11 suspects in federal courts.   I suppose that what really bothers me about this issue is the way in which the administrations past and present have both been playing fast and loose with language, essentially wanting to have it both ways.
        We’ve been told over and over again that acts of terror, such the September 11 attacks, fall outside the bounds of the legitimate conduct of war.  In the aftermath of World War II, we prosecuted, and even executed, German and Japanese officers whom we determined to have overstepped these internationally recognized bounds and were therefore “war criminals” who had committed “atrocities.”  Hence, they were not entitled to the rights traditionally accorded to prisoners of war, who are supposed to be treated humanely and respected as honorable opponents. 
      What it amounts to is that acts of terror are crimes; acts of war are not.  And criminals need to be punished, not prisoners of war.
       So it seems to me that, if we don’t try the 9/11 suspects, in either civilian or military courts, we are in effect conceding that they were merely waging war and not committing illegitimate acts of terror.   The old saying, of course, is that “all’s fair in love and war,” but I don’t think that’s the position we can afford to take, legally or morally. 
      Just yesterday, I heard “El Rushbo,” as he likes to call himself, suggest that Holder’s decision represents the height of legal hypocrisy.  Rush feels this way because Holder has reassured the country that, whether they’re found guilty or not guilty, the 9/11 suspects are not going to be released.  Personally, I see no disconnect here.  A not-guilty verdict would simply mean that they are legitimate prisoners of war after all, and we don’t release POWs until the war is over. 
       Having thought it through, then, I'm taking the following position:  If we consider the 9/11 suspects to be terrorists, they need to be tried, convicted, and punished as such.   If we consider them to be prisoners of war, they need to be held but treated humanely.  While someone initially taken as a prisoner of war may later be determined to be a war criminal and a terrorist, that person cannot be both a terrorist and a prisoner of war.   Ultimately, he or she is one or the other, not both.
       The problem with holding these people as POWs, of course, is that we’re not at war with a national authority that can surrender, and how can we know that any individual Moslem extremist has indeed had a change of heart?   Where or what is the endgame here?  I wish I knew.  --EFP

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Salmon Run 2009

The salmon are running, but I've been short on time, and we've only had a couple clear days in the last two weeks.  I'm not adverse to sitting alongside the creek in the rain, trying to hold an umbrella and a camera.  I've done it before.  But the light is bad when it's raining.  This is the best I've managed to do thus far this year.  Maybe I can get out there again this weekend--if we have a decent day.  --EFP

My Formerly Homeless Piece

I did finally find a home for my piece on thanking veterans:  http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/nov/11/ed-palm-guest-columnist-were-not-heroes-for-in/
       Since Bremerton is very much a military community, this was a good place for it.  My thanks to the Kitsap Sun's editor, David Nelson, for making room for me.  He put my op-ed at the top of a page in the hard copy edition and ran it as a "guest columnist" piece.  --EFP

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To "Amy"

I was humbled to discover that "Amy," the sister-in-law of the late John LaBossiere, found my blog and left a comment.  She confirms that her brother-in-law came back from Iraq a changed man and that the war indeed played a major role in his tragedy.  I don't doubt it.  As I wrote before, I only know what the Seattle Times reported about the confrontation between LaBossiere and the police, and I hope that no further news reports add to the family's pain.  But what I do know is that we can't keep overextending and abusing our troops.  It's just not right.  To paraphrase Churchill, never have so many asked so much of so few.  This is not our country's "finest hour."
       Thank you, "Amy," for your comment.  --EFP

Happy Marine Corps Birthday!

(Part of the Papa 3 landing force, Vietnam, 1967)
My wife has reminded me that 34 years ago, at Quantico, we attended the ball for the 200th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Don't you just hate people who are good at math?
     Happy birthday, Marines!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Antipathy Grounded in Racism

Just today I saw a bumper sticker that lends credence to Jimmy Carter's view of why so many people are down on Obama.
      The text was "Obama/Deceiver"; the image was of Obama in white face.
      This is one of those instances in which the medium is the message.  Taken together, the image and the text suggest that Obama is pretending to be white.  The subtext, moreover, seems to be clear:  The President of the United States is supposed to be white.
      Further, I have to wonder if the people who would display this bumper sticker understand the racist resonance of depicting Obama in white face.  It recalls the black face worn by white comedians in the minstrel shows of old, in which black people were stereotyped as clownish and conniving.
     Personally, I can respect anyone who has reasoned objections to any and all of Obama's policies, but not someone whose antipathy is grounded in racism.
     Jimmie Carter was right.  --EFP

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Whatever Happened to "Up or Out"?

(Young Corporal Palm, Vietnam, 1967)
I noticed that one of the victims of the Fort Hood massacre was a 56-year-old Army Reserve captain.  Not to cast aspersions on this man:  I understand he tried to get back in the Army Reserve after 9/11 and was finally called up two years ago.  I'm sure he was a great soldier and a wonderful human being.  But I still maintain that no army should have 56-year-old captains.  There was a certain wisdom to the "up-or-out" policy that kept our military relatively young.  Fighting wars is a young person's business.
     As I recall, this was the topic that first "loosed mere" Palm upon the air waves:    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5066475

Small Businesses--A Republican Article of Faith

(One of the small businesses that "fuel" the economy--in this case, with donuts, Pike Place Market, Seattle.)

"How g….d…. dumb do they think we are?”  a friend of mine used to exclaim every time he heard a dubious bit of political rhetoric.
      I couldn’t help but think of that sardonic friend and his favorite rhetorical question Just this morning.  A  Republican pundit on “Meet the Press” was warning that Obama’s health care plan would hurt small businesses and that we have to depend on small businesses to fuel our economy by creating jobs.
      This, of course, has been a Republican article of faith ever since the reign of Ronald Reagan.  I don’t understand why the opposition never seems to challenge the Republicans on this point.  In my experience, those same small businesses are the ones that typically pay the minimum wage and offer no benefits.   How can that fuel the economy?
      Here in the Northwest, for instance, Microsoft just announced that they will be cutting another 5,000 jobs.  Will the victims of this round of layoffs be able to support their families by going to work for these fabled “small businesses”? 
      So again, “How g….d…. dumb do they think we are?”  Pretty damned dumb, I guess.  --EFP

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Veteran in the News

(Monument to Non-Violence, Malmo, Sweden, July, 2004)
I’ve been busy, busy, keeping up with my online teaching, but I have to take time out to comment on a story that caught my eye in yesterday’s Seattle Times.
     On, Tuesday, November 3, Lake Stevens, WA, police shot and killed an armed Iraq war veteran who allegedly “forced his way into a home where his wife and three children were staying with friends.”
     The article identified the veteran as John LaBossiere, a former Marine who had joined the National Guard upon his discharge from the Corps. The Marine Corps had sent him to Iraq twice. The National Guard sent him over for a third tour. He had just returned to the States in August, and according to his father, he returned an “angry man” who felt he had to be armed at all times. According to the article, one handgun was found near his body and "another on his body.” 
     The circumstances surrounding the actual shooting were not reported. As always happens in such cases, the officers involved are on paid leave pending an investigation. I have no idea what LaBossiere intended or whether police could have resolved the situation without killing him. But what I do know concerns me on two levels. 
     First, I could join Shakespeare’s Hamlet in proclaiming “O my prophetic soul!” For some time now, I’ve been worrying out loud and in print about the toll the operational tempo is taking on our small volunteer force. But some Horatio would be justified in reminding my na├»ve self that “there needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us” that we can expect more tragic scenes involving Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to play themselves out in the years to come. Would that it were not so—and the overwhelming majority of today’s veterans will never be a danger to themselves or others. But it’s difficult for all combat veterans to snap back to normalcy. 
     Second, I am concerned about the effect stories about troubled veterans have on the popular mind. I remember how Vietnam veterans were stereotyped as hair-trigger, dangerously deranged losers liable to erupt into violence at any moment. That was the myth out of which Rambo was made. And let’s be honest here: most of us who went to Vietnam hadn’t been through anything compared to the veterans of our current wars , many of whom have been sent into harm’s way three or more times.
     So take one of these young soldiers or Marines who has already witnessed too much to make a smooth transition back to the land of shopping-mall warriors, and then let him know that you’re wary of him, and what is the likely result? It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your suspicion might just push him over the edge, turning him into the sort of veteran you fear.
     A bit of bad Roosevelt comes to mind: One of the things our returning veterans have to fear, ironically, is fear itself. --EFP